You may have noticed I have been absent from this blog since June.
Much has happened.
My mom died July 21st, and I am only now beginning to feel my head bobbing just above the waterline. It has been non-stop from the time I was called by her Assisted Living nurse reporting that she was having another TIA, through admission to Hospice, her dying days and moments, the funeral, and the closing of her affairs.
I have spent the last week going through the family photos which she kept stored in three drawers, categorized and classified by year, beginning with 1948: the year she and my father wed.
Looking at photos:
I see the face of that person: that friend, that mother, that artist, that writer, that quilter, that knitter, that soprano, that numerologist, that healer, that teacher of meditation and of Yiddish and of watercolor painting and of knitting, that executive secretary, that homemaker, that seamstress, that self-taught naturopath, that child, that sister, that aunt, that wife, that woman of enormous intelligence, creativity, witchy intuition and acerbic wit, that lover of trees and of music and of the dying and the homeless the helpless and the suffering the impoverished and the downtrodden—that volunteer for Hospice, and Hadassah and library boards, who well into her nineties sought out shut-ins and blind neighbors in order that she might read to them or hold their hands— that manic-depressive, bipolar, judging- forgiving, punishing- comforting, loving- rejecting, critical- ashamed of me- proud of me mother; that complex convoluted non-compromising comical compassionate coherent cogent codependent person whom I had lost so very long ago to dementia and time… and who had faded from both our memories; only the tiniest bits and pieces – broken fragments of who she once was- breaking free of that older old’s personality and mind only in the rarest of moments.
The bittersweet irony is that only through her dying were we both able to rediscover who we’d once been… to rediscover the raging river that had carried us both in its current of shared life. That river which had dwindled into a vague undercurrent of connection, swelled again, lifting us both into the powerful current of endings and beginnings. She held my hand and kissed it over and over again. She held my heart and thanked me for all I’d given her and blessed me for always being there. She said our love was an unbroken circle, surrounding us and binding us together, forever. She held me in her arms and told me not to cry.
These boxes are filled with photographic memory— moments captured through the lens of time. They render her death— for which both of us had so ardently prayed, believing it would bring only blessed relief— unbearably painful. Her loss is inconceivably huge; and the time I had with her—all of it, the good and the bad and the ugly—has been made absolute and precious.
I wish I’d looked at these photographs while she was still alive, to remind myself of who she still was at the very core, so that I might have honored and loved the lifetime in her; so that I would have been more patient; so that I would have been more kind, more forgiving, more mature, more generous, more present. More grateful. To her and for her.
I have been unable to concentrate, or write, or stay in one place doing one thing for very long. I feel scattered, lost, aimless. The woman who took up so much of my life is gone from my daily cosmos. The woman who gave me life is gone from mine.
For the first time, ever, my life is truly my own. And I really don’t quite know what to do with it.